45 Ranch Habitat Restoration

Owners, tribes, public agencies and non-profits joined together to complete an ambitious habitat restoration.

The 45 Ranch, along the South Fork of the Owyhee River in the remote canyon lands of southwest Idaho, encompasses the most ecologically significant bottomlands habitat within the entire 52 miles of the river. Previous land management practices reduced the Ranch’s once-vibrant wet meadows to dry, desiccated fields of weeds. The Nature Conservancy engaged GeoEngineers to develop and execute a comprehensive restoration strategy to return the ranch to its historical habitat and natural function.

Approach

GeoEngineers’ restoration strategy included public involvement, preliminary designs, funding acquisition and ultimately a two-phase design and construction approach. We assisted in securing $170,000 in grants for the construction of Phase 1 and then secured environmental permits, developed final designs and construction documents, facilitated contractor selection and oversaw the construction of Phase 1 in 2008. The project scope included:

  • Replacing a defunct diversion dam with a natural “rapid” that is passable to fish and rafters
  • Installing one mile of pipe to replace a dysfunctional irrigation ditch
  • Constructing a pond to irrigate recreated wetlands, diversify habitat and provide fire protection
  • Reconstructing an eroded road to restore public access to more than 30,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land

Results

  • Restored historical conditions in an ecologically sensitive area
  • Created 25+ acres of restored wetlands, installed an environmentally sustainable gravity-fed irrigation system and created a new habitat/fire-safety pond, among other improvements
  • Renewed wetland habitat by recreating and augmenting natural systems to significantly enhance fish and wildlife habitat, improve natural river functions, provide greater recreational access and improve ranch operations
  • A highly collaborative effort between ranchers, multiple agencies, organizations and tribes working together to achieve successful outcomes

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